Undefeated Ciryl Gane outpointed Alexander Volkov via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas.
It was a critical heavyweight contender bout, and Gane could be queued up for a title fight before long.
Gane’s hand speed, footwork and technical striking were too much for the bigger, 6-foot-7 Volkov.
“I’m feeling really nice,” Gane said in his postfight interview. “I’m good. A little dents on my face, but I like that. It’s my job.”
Afterward, Gane said he’s “ready” for a chance at the heavyweight belt. If he were to get that opportunity, it could come against champion Francis Ngannou, who came up in MMA under coach Fernand Lopez at MMA Factory in Paris.
Gane trains under Lopez at MMA Factory, and he and Ngannou have trained together before. Gane said he would want to fight Ngannou only if the UFC title is on the line. And there’s a chance now that it could happen.
“I think it’s OK,” Gane said. “Now I’m comfortable with the situation. He has the belt. … We were born in the same gym with the same coach. Now, for the title, for the belt — I can do this.”
Two of the best heavyweights right now in mixed martial arts have roots in France — a remarkable development for a country without a real MMA pedigree that legalized the sport only last year.
Coming in, ESPN had Gane ranked No. 4 in the world at heavyweight, while Volkov was right behind him at No. 6. Derrick Lewis and all-time great Jon Jones, who is moving up to heavyweight from light heavyweight, are on the short list of Ngannou’s next challengers, but Gane is now very much in that conversation.
Gane was just too slick with his striking throughout the fight. He landed beautiful jabs to keep Volkov at bay, despite Volkov having the height and reach difference. Gane’s speed and agility for his 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame are incredibly impressive. He’s as light on his feet as any heavyweight of his size in UFC history. And from a technical standpoint, Gane, who has a background in pro Muay Thai, is as good of a standup artist as anyone else in the division.
On Saturday, Gane outlanded Volkov 135-115 in significant strikes. That total for Gane is the seventh most ever in a UFC heavyweight fight. Volkov had moments with hard leg kicks and his big right hand. But it was Gane leading the dance for all five rounds.
“This guy, for me, is one of the best in the division,” Gane said on the ESPN+ postfight show. “He’s really tough. It’s the first time a man [hit] me like him.”
Gane (9-0) is one of the top up-and-coming fighters in any division. The France native has won six straight, only the fifth heavyweight in UFC history to start his run in the promotion at 6-0. All the others — Randy Couture, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos and Ngannou — went on to become champions.
Gane, 31, is coming off somewhat of a lackluster, albeit one-sided, unanimous decision win over Jairzinho Rozenstruik in February. But he was much more aggressive against Volkov.
Volkov (33-9) had won two straight going in and still has won seven of his past 10 in the UFC. The Russia native was coming off a second-round TKO of Alistair Overeem in February, the biggest victory of his career.
Volkov, 32, had only two losses since 2015 going in, to Lewis and Curtis Blaydes, another top heavyweight contender. Volkov has 25 finishes in 33 career victories.